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Sara Scheyer-Farmer

Sales Associate

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Helpful Tips to Find Your New Home!


8 Tips for Finding Your New Home

By: G. M. Filisko

Published: February 10, 2010

A solid game plan can help you narrow your homebuying search to find the best home for you.

1. Know thyself

Understand the type of home that suits your personality. Do you prefer a new or existing home? A ranch or a multistory home? If youre leaning toward a fixer-upper, are you truly handy, or will you need to budget for contractors?

2. Research before you look

List the features you most want in a home and identify which are necessities and which are extras. Identify three to four neighborhoods youd like to live in based on commute time, schools, recreation, crime, and price. Then hop onto REALTOR.com to get a feel for the homes available in your price range in your favorite neighborhoods. Use the results to prioritize your wants and needs so you can add in and weed out properties from the inventory youd like to view.

3. Get your finances in order

Generally, lenders say you can afford a home priced two to three times your gross income. Create a budget so you know how much youre comfortable spending each month on housing. Dont wait until youve found a home and made an offer to investigate financing.

Gather your financial records and meet with a lender to get a prequalification letter spelling out how much youre eligible to borrow. The lender wont necessarily consider the extra fees youll pay when you purchase or your plans to begin a family or purchase a new car, so shop in a price range youre comfortable with. Also, presenting an offer contingent on financing will make your bid less attractive to sellers.

4. Set a moving timeline

Do you have blemishes on your credit that will take time to clear up? If you already own, have you sold your current home? If not, youll need to factor in the time needed to sell. If you rent, when is your lease up? Do you expect interest rates to jump anytime soon? All these factors will affect your buying, closing, and moving timelines.

5. Think long term

Your future plans may dictate the type of home youll buy. Are you looking for a starter house with plans to move up in a few years, or do you hope to stay in the home for five to 10 years? With a starter, you may need to adjust your expectations. If you plan to nest, be sure your priority list helps you identify a home youll still love years from now.

6. Work with a REALTOR®

Ask people you trust for referrals to a real estate professional they trust. Interview agents to determine which have expertise in the neighborhoods and type of homes youre interested in. Because homebuying triggers many emotions, consider whether an agents style meshes with your personality.

Also ask if the agent specializes in buyer representation. Unlike listing agents, whose first duty is to the seller, buyers reps work only for you even though theyre typically paid by the seller. Finally, check whether agents are REALTORS®, which means theyre members of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. NAR has been a champion of homeownership rights for more than a century.

7. Be realistic

Its OK to be picky about the home and neighborhood you want, but dont be close-minded, unrealistic, or blinded by minor imperfections. If you insist on living in a cul-de-sac, you may miss out on great homes on streets that are just as quiet and secluded.

On the flip side, dont be so swayed by a wow feature that you forget about other issueslike noise levelsthat can have a big impact on your quality of life. Use your priority list to evaluate each property, remembering theres no such thing as the perfect home.

8. Limit the opinions you solicit

Its natural to seek reassurance when making a big financial decision. But you know that saying about too many cooks in the kitchen. If you need a second opinion, select one or two people. But remain true to your list of wants and needs so the final decision is based on criteria youve identified as important.

Plant Trees to Save Energy and Grow Value in your home


Plant Trees To Save Energy and Grow Value

By: Brad Broberg

Published: September 12, 2009

Plant a tree to add value to your home and have a positive impact on the local environment.

But every year, 3.2 million acres of forest are cut down, according to the Nature Conservancy. Several million more acres are lost to fire, storm, and disease. That's why planting new trees and protecting the ones we have is so important. You can do your part by

  • Caring for the trees in your yard
  • Supporting tree-planting activities in your community
  • Donating to organizations, such as The Nature Conservancy, which works to preserve the world's trees and forests, and American Forests, which offers a unique way to take action. First, use its online Climate Change Calculator to determine your carbon footprint. Then, make up for your emissions by donating to a forest restoration project.

Why should you care about trees? Bankable benefits

The most tangible bang from your bark comes from energy savings. Three properly placed trees could save you between $100 and $250 a year in energy costs, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Trees save energy two main ways. Their shade cuts cooling costs in the summer. In winter, they serve as windbreak and help hold down heating costs.

The National Tree Calculator estimates that a 12-inch elm in an Omaha yard can save $32.43 a year on your energy bills; the same tree in Atlanta would save you $11.89 annually. The calculator also breaks down other dollars and cents benefits of your tree, like decreasing storm water runoff, removing carbon dioxide from the air, and increasing property values.

In our elm example, the 12-inch tree adds $40.23 to the Omaha home's value and a $57.33 to the one in Atlanta. And as trees grow larger, they can add even more value.

A 2002 study by the USDA Forest Service pegs the value a single tree adds to a property of about $630. Of course, tree value depends on size, species, location, and condition.

Adds Frank Lucco, a real estate appraiser with IRR-Residential in Houston, On a $100,000 home [in my market], as much as $10,000 of its value could be associated with mature trees.

That's peanuts compared with the role trees play as the lungs of the planet. A report by the Trust for Public Land estimated that one mature tree takes 48 pounds of carbon out of the atmosphere each year and returns enough oxygen for two human beings.

Plant your tree in the right spot

To get the full benefits from your trees, choose the right one and put it in the right location. Planting a deciduous tree on the west side of a house provides cooling shade in the summer. In winter, after it loses its leaves, the same tree lets in sunlight that cuts heating and lighting bills. On the other hand, an evergreen on the west side blocks sun all year long, making a home colder and darker in winter. Rather plant evergreens, a great choice for blocking icy winter winds, on the north side of your home. 

If you're planting a new tree, think about its fully grown size and shape before you dig. Branches from a tree located below power lines can cause outages as it grows. Roots from a tree located too close to a home can damage the foundation or block sewer lines. The wrong tree in the wrong place could actually lower your home's appraised value if it's deemed hazardous, says Frank Lucco, a real estate appraiser with IRR-Residential in Houston.

Tree costs

Expect to pay $50 to $100 for a 6- to 7-foot deciduous tree, such as a katsura or evergreen. The same tree at 15 feet will cost $100 to $200, according to Brad Swank of Molbak's Nursery in Woodinville, Wash. The Arbor Day Foundation sells saplings for as little as $8-$15, or less if you're a member.

Since trees cost money, be cautious about any home construction work. "Tree failure can happen seven to 10 years after construction, primarily because the root system fails when the soil is compacted," says Thomas Hanson, a member of the American Society of Consulting Arborists from Kirkland, Wash. Also watch for diseases or pests that can threaten trees in your yard and community.

Become a tree advocate

Ensuring that your community has lots of healthy trees doesn't have to be more complicated than a trip to the nursery and a hole in your backyard. Dig it twice as wide as deep. Let kids push in the dirt and help water weekly until the tree is two years old. The Arbor Day Foundation will tell you how to select the right tree for your needs and climate, where to plant it, and how to maintain it.

The foundation also is a great place to look for community and educational programs.

  • Its Tree City USA initiative provides expert advice and national recognition to cities and towns that want to establish tree-management plans.
  • Its Arbor Day Poster Contest for fifth-graders gives teachers a fun way to help students learn the importance of trees.

Considering everything trees do for you, it's the least you can do for them.

Brad Broberg is a freelance writer from Federal Way, Wash. A former newspaper reporter and editor, he writes about business, health care, and real estate for REALTOR Magazine, the Puget Sound Business Journal, and Seattle Children's Hospital, among others. He's lived in the same home for 22 yearsa home he shares with seven towering Douglas firs.

Do I need money to buy a house?


One of the main things I hear from potential homeowners is, I cant buy a house because I dont have enough money for a down payment. There is nothing farther from the truth. Yes it is true that many loan programs require a down payment but there are a number of ways that a homeowner can get help with their down payment and there are still loan programs out there that do not require a down payment at all!!

Here are a few options for you to consider:

1) Kentucky Housing Corporation (KHC)

-The Kentucky Housing Corporation is an entity that exists to help people buy homes anywhere in Kentucky. You do need to be a first time home buyer, however, a first time home buyer is defined as someone who has not owned a home for the past 3 years. There are a number of programs through KHC to help first time homeowners.

A) Home DAP - This is up to $4500 to be used toward down payment and closing costs. This is a forgiveable grant which is forgiven at a rate of 20% each year until the entire amount is forgiven after 5 years. There are income qualifications for this loan that vary by county and the number of people in your household.

There is another version of this program for single parents and disabled persons that can provide $10,000 to be used for down payment and closing costs. This is also another forgiveable grant which is a great deal if you qualify! This program does not always have funds though since they give out the money in such large increments.

B) Regular DAP - This is up to $4500 as well to be used toward down payment or closing costs. The income requirements are much higher to help people who make a little more money but still dont have their own down payment. The biggest difference with this program is that it is a loan, not a forgiveable grant. You pay back this loan over roughly 10 years. This typically adds about $50 to your monthly payment until you have the loan paid off. This provides an excellent opportunity to get into a home with very little money out of pocket if you make a little more money.

2) Covington Yes U Can

-This is a program specifically for people buying their first home anywhere in Covington. Now Covington does include the area off of Hands Pike if you prefer subdivision living to city life. This program is funded through a grant and they do periodically run out of money. Typically they get refunded on July 1. There are income restrictions on this program.

-If you qualify you can get $8,000 to be used toward your down payment and closing costs. This is what they call a soft 2nd mortgage, so the City of Covington attaches a lien onto your new home for the $8,000. It stays there for 15 years. If you sell the home before the 15 year period you must pay back the money in full. If you keep the home for 15+ years then the loan is forgiven. Regardless, you make no payments on the loan and acrue no interest on the money.

3) USDA or rural housing

-There are 2 rural housing programs that are currently utilized. They both require that you buy a home in a rural area. However, you would be surprised what they consider rural!

A) Rural Housing indirect - This is a NO MONEY DOWN LOAN with no PMI (private mortgage insurance)! There is an up front fee that you pay to avoid the PMI but overall this loan program can save you money on your monthly payment. There are income restrictions that vary by county but lots of people qualify.

B) Rural Housing direct - This is also a NO MONEY DOWN LOAN but the big difference is that the government actually subsidizes your payments!!!! Of course there are income qualifications and you have to jump through some hoops to qualify, but it can be help to individuals who never thought they could buy a home. I have seen single Moms buy brand new homes on basically a minimum wage salary!!!

4) VA

-A VA loan is a NO DOWN PAYMENT LOAN that requires the homeowner to be an eligible veteran. This is a great product for our dedicated veterans! If you are a disabled veteran with at least a 10% documented disability then you do not have to pay the up front fee that VA charges.

-Occasionally if you buy a home that VA has foreclosed on, then you can use a VA loan to purchase it. The Veterans Administration will determine if a particular property can be purchased in this fashion. Another way to buy a home with a VA loan is to assume the loan. This means that you take over the loan that already exists on the home that you want to buy. This is an option that hasnt been used much in the past 20 years but we will probably see it used more often has rates go up. I will post more about assumable mortgages at a later time.

The bottom line is that there are lots of ways that you can still buy a home with very little money out of your pocket, but you need to find a good loan officer and a good Realtor who are knowledgeable about the changes in these programs so you have good guides through the process. Otherwise you may find yourself being very frustrated along your path to homeownership.

Tips for buying foreclosured homes


For Your Clients: Tips for Buying Foreclosures

RISMEDIA, January 25, 2011The McCarty Group, a Florida real estate team specializing in Marco Island properties, has released a Top Tips list for buying foreclosures.

Mike and Wendy McCarty of Keller Williams Realty say the tips apply to virtually all markets in the U.S. and that while many buyers have heard that there are many foreclosures on the market, most don't understand these practical rules they can follow to save money.

Here are some tips to consider:

1. Work with an agent who has access to foreclosure information.
Many home buyers assume that all agents have access to foreclosure listings. It's important to ask.

2. Bank-owned properties generally close faster than short sales.
While short sales can be bargains, they also can take a lot longer. Some banks will negotiate in a timely manner on short sales, but most will prioritize properties they have already repossessed.

3. Always offer less than the asking price.
Don't assume that banks are firm on their price. For example, asset managers responsible for liquidating bank-owned Marco Island, Florida condos are often willing to consider a lower offer.

4. Ask the bank to pay your closing costs.
The worst that can happen is that they say no. Sometimes buyers are surprised to find that banks can be quite accommodating when they want to.

5. Get pre-approved from the right bank.
When making an offer on a short sale, it's often strategically helpful to be pre-approved by the same bank. During negotiations, this may tip the scales in your favor.

-article courtesy of RIS Media&Lowes

State of the NKY Market


Well another year is in the books and its time to look forward to 2011.  Before we get too far into the New Year I would like to give a state of the market address . . . 

2010 was an OK year for the real estate market.  We saw the tax credit come and go which helped to encourage home purchases in the first part of the year.  However, once the tax credit expired, we saw a lag in home sales in the latter part of the year. The amount of homes for sale has gone down a bit in Boone, Kenton and Campbell Counties and the average sale price of homes in those counties actually went up ever so slightly during the course of 2010.  The average asking price on homes went down and the time on the market went up which reinforces the fact that the market is still adjusting.  2010 may not have been the best time to sell your home but it was a great time to buy a home!! 

 So what is the forecast for 2011?  Well since I do not have a crystal ball I cant say for sure, but it appears that we will continue on our current course and possibly, hopefully climb ever so slightly this year.  Homes will continue to sell however it might not be for the price you wanted and it might take twice as long, but homes will still sell.  It will remain a great time to buy a home!!  There are lots of homes to choose from and many good deals to be had in NKY.   We will continue to see a number of distressed home sales which doesnt bode well for neighborhood home values but will certainly offer many deals to home buyers.  Underwriting guidelines will continue to tighten making getting a loan a bit of a challenge but have no fear with the guidance of a true professional, the deals will get done!!  Interest rates will go up at some point so if you are thinking about making a move, I wouldnt wait.  You can buy thousands of dollars more house with rates as low as they are!  You dont want to miss this boat!!

So what is the moral of all of this?  Dont lose hope!  The real estate market continues to survive and things will get better.  With interest rates so low and such good deals to be had, this just might be the year to buy that bigger house!   Call me, your personal Realtor, today to explore your options!

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